Five ‘leanings’ that leaders need to avoid

Which way are you leaning?

Today, I had a coffee with my friend Chris Savage, who writes a great blog called Wrestling Possums. Well worth checking out. While we were sharing personal growth stories he referenced a man of great wisdom and insight – Dr Seuss. In his seminal work “The Lorax”, Dr. Seuss’ character says “A tree falls the way it leans, be careful which way you lean”.

It got me thinking about leaders and how we lean.

At our best, we lean well into habits that are positive, outcome focused and ‘leaderly like’, what ever that means in the moment! However, when we have limited capacity or are under duress, we can over-rely on habits and practices that are not the ones we would ideally opt for and that help the leader to fall over.

Having worked with thousands of leaders across the Asia Pacific region we have observed several ‘leanings’ that propels the leader to fall – and not in the way they hoped.

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Lead during uncertainty

3 ideas to help lead with during time of uncertainty

Hint: Start close in, look for progress while counting one second 

Last week I had the opportunity to present at the 5th annual Leader development and business performance conference hosted by The Leadership Circle. With a focus on ‘Navigating the waves of uncertainty’ each speaker gave thought and insight to how leaders might develop practices to overcome the challenges faced in uncertain times. We heard all about VUCA, complexities, the Cynefin framework and some daily habits that are useful in these situations. Here are some of the standouts for me.

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9 learnings from transforming leadership teams

Leadership teams set the pace for an organisation’s development. If the leadership team are not developing then the organisation slows down. The development needs to be aligned to strategic needs so as to get value from the time invested.

A generic program not tailored to the organisation’s environment is likely to become a theoretical exercise rather than a practical learning opportunity. High performing leadership teams are increasingly using team coaching to address their specific, collective needs and, in parallel, individual coaching to accelerate and support individual performance.

Here are 9 learnings that have emerged from the work we have been doing in supporting the transformation of leadership teams.

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Why the best leaders develop (boring) habits!

“This has been a game changer for me” he said.

I was chatting with Adam, an executive with responsibility over 1500 retail stores globally, about the last six months of his life. He was reflecting on where coaching had helped. He said encouraging him to develop specific daily habits had changed the way he showed up as a leader, a colleague and a parent. Big outcome!

What was really intriguing though was that Adam was the fifth person over the last two months who had said the exact same thing to me during our end of coaching assignment review.

They each, independently confirmed that building particular habits had resulted in real change to their leadership game: their leadership outputs were beyond any expectation; the feedback they received was more positive than ever received previously. Most importantly, they were really enjoying their leadership roles and expressed delight that they were in flow.

This brings the notion of habits to the foreground.

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Judgement – It can make you or break you

One of the great privileges of executive coaching is working with successful, driven people who are pushing hard toward achieving the aspirations for themselves and their teams. While these people are undoubtedly talented, it is not uncommon for them to occasionally demonstrate poor judgment in relation to their own behaviour.

It also seems that this characteristic is generalised across the whole population. I am sure you can recall for yourself situations where you have heard through the media or your own experience about high profile people – politicians, celebrities, captains of industry, who have been “exposed” for conduct that seems out of character relative to their usual behaviour and demeanour.

Just as it can happen with these public figures, so it happens with individuals in organisations – even the most “talented”. This can be isolated incidents or as a pattern of behaviour.

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Four reasons why organisations need to promote conflict over harmony

I happened to be in New York recently when Hilary Clinton announced her intention to run as a Presidential candidate. Her campaign office is based in Brooklyn. Within a few hours her various opposition candidates had come out in force against her starting the combat or conflict that will consume American media for the remainder of 2015 until the next election in 2016. One local evening news anchor said on the night of the announcement, with a sense of despair, “why don’t politicians just live in harmony, then we all could?”.

It got me thinking about the positives and negatives regarding harmony and conflict.

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Five accelerators to faster reach your effective point (EP)

Every organisation in the world will have a leader transitioning into a new role at some stage. Yet many organisations are unsure how to accelerate those transitions.

Studies show that up to 25% of all C-level leadership appointments result in failure and 80% of transitions are reported to take longer than anticipated by the organisation.

It is surprising even with the billions that are invested each year in leadership development and all the care that is taken in talent management and succession planning that more than 90% of recently appointed senior leaders believe they are not ready and adequately prepared for promotion when it is offered.

The impact is that the effective point (EP) takes longer to achieve. The EP is when a leader has successfully transitioned and is fully operational in their new role.

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Questions of Character, Credibility and Confidence

Story telling in organisations, families and indeed all kinds of tribes is powerful and revealing. The stories give insight into what is valued, rewarded and subsequently insights into culture.

Whether leaders actively shape their organisation or not, stories are being told anyway. Stories of how ‘some people get away with murder around here’ because they:

(a) are of a particular status,
(b) have been here for a particular length of time or
(c) generate a particular amount of revenue

get told over cups of coffee and in lunch rooms all over the world.

Being originally from Ireland, now living in Sydney but spending lots of time travelling around Asia with work, I am always fascinated by what emerges within the organisational narrative.

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Relish or Perish?

Four characteristics for new CEOs to quickly relish or potentially perish

The announcement of a new CEO is an exciting time. Exciting for them personally as this is usually a culmination of many years effort, exciting for their family who have supported them along the way, exciting for the Board who have endorsed this individual and hopefully, exciting for the organisation who look forward to the upcoming ‘reign’ of the new leader. I imagine they are hoping for less of the Games of Thrones type of reign and more of the Tim Cook or David Thodey style!

The infamous book title of “What got you here won’t get you there applies to new CEOs now more than ever. When the Fortune 500 was launched in 1955, according to a 2013 BCG report, CEOs had 4-7 KPIs to achieve each year. Today the same CEO will have 25-40 KPIs. Employee engagement scores in the 1990s, according to sources such as Gallup, were in the 60th percentile. Today they measure in the 40th percentile and in many countries, are dropping. This creates the challenge of harnessing the energy of an increasingly disengaged workforce.

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